Julianne’s Blog

this is my blog. this is the only blog there will be.

California dreaming 22 January 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 6:06 AM
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I feel so lucky to be able to live my life the way I do. I’ve been traveling for over a year now and I’ve seen some amazing things. Now I am “settled,” if that’s what you call moving between two amazing cities on opposite sides of the country. But most wonderful of all is that I get to do it all with an incredible man. He loves me as much as I love him, and we make each other blissfully happy. What more could anyone ask for?

the dancing bears

Their colors may fade and one of them has been decapitated, but those bears just keep on dancing!

We’ve been having a great time together in Los Angeles and have developed a lovely routine. Every Tuesday we go to a nearby theater for a movie and $1 popcorn. That night a few of Jason’s friends come over for gaming, and I work on sewing projects in the bedroom. Often when we have local errands we walk, as much for the exercise as a chance to observe the fabulous greenery in the warm California climate. Many yards feature native plants that I’ve never seen before, but there are also the largest geraniums I’ve ever seen. I love identifying as many plants as possible, and I always take samples of the different lavender species I find. We cook some delicious vegan meals and find cool things to watch on the 62″ TV. Throughout the week we meet up with friends and usually see Jason’s brother Jeff, along with his two wild girls, Arden and Eryl. Sunday’s main event is ultimate frisbee in El Segundo, the town Jason grew up in (his dad was even the mayor!). This is followed by lunch at Veggie Grill, where we get amazing vegan nachos, mac&cheese, and kickin’ wings with ranch sauce.

Buying bulk at Costco with nieces Arden and Eryl

We spent our Christmas at home together, laying in bed and laughing with the universe. After a nature walk through the empty streets of Mar Vista we joined some friends and family at a theater to see Sherlock Holmes. New Year’s Eve was also spent in the dark quiet of the apartment, but the next night we visited the Griffith Park Observatory. I’d never been to an observatory before, and although it was crowded and we didn’t have much time there before it closed my mind was sufficiently blown.

One of our most exciting days was our venture to the Fashion District in downtown LA. Jason’s been telling me about it for months and finally the stars aligned for our visit. There were tons of stores selling ready to wear clothes, from tackily fabulous satin and sequin gowns to T shirts in every color, but of course the main draw for me was the fabric stores. Not only were there so many fabrics I’d never seen in stores before, but also they were cheap! We went in less than 10 stores but the selection seemed endless. I was gleeful when I got a few yards of two different lycra jerseys to make dresses (one of which I’m wearing now, look for it on MadeByJulianne soon) and some stretch fabric that will make up to some faaabulous new pants once it’s properly dyed. We also got supplies for our current craft project: Mardi Gras masks! The most memorable store was Michael Levine, where Jason got some corduroy for new pants and I pined and panted over the amazing array of cotton prints, all fantastically out of my price range. Another day, my pretties, you will be mine…

In two weeks we will neatly arrange our things in the back of the Volvo and head east. There’s talk afoot of stopping in Las Vegas for some fun times, and then it’s on to New Orleans. We’ll be there in plenty time for Mardi Gras and the Endymion parade, and we’re staying put until my birthday at the end of March. I’m planning a unicorn themed birthday party, so mark your calendars for 27 March! I’m excited about getting back to my city and seeing my friends again, but it’s strange to think about leaving this place that has become my new home.

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OK, November deserved more than one sentence. 13 January 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 8:25 AM
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November was a good month, and should be appropriately represented in the almost defunct blog.

I gathered together a rag-tag team of girlies off Craigslist and we all set off for the West Coast. Two of the girls were actually only going to Houston, which is why I agreed to let them bring their dog. I’m not a huge fan of dogs, and when I spend any amount of time with them in enclosed spaces my allergies react in new and unexciting ways. So when the girls’ plans in Houston fell through and they decided to ride to Pheonix, I had mixed feelings. I mean, yeah, that was a little bit of extra gas money (although not at all an equal share), but on the other hand, I’ve had red blotches on my chest that are just now starting to fade away.

the rideshare team

But the point is I got to Los Angeles! Even though Jason knew I was coming, he was still surprised when he turned around in his kitchen and saw me standing right in front of him. He jumped about three feet in the air and yelled out “HOLY SHIT!” We were still laughing about it a couple weeks later. Our time together in LA was spent mostly in his apartment, where we read, ate a lot, watched season 3 of Californication, and pretended to work. But we went out to see a couple movies, had a picnic on the beach, rode around on bicycles, and went to his niece’s 5th birthday, so see, we aren’t total bums.

November 21 was Jason’s birthday, so a couple days before we had a party. I’d brought 2 packs of Abita Beer from Louisiana, plus Camelia redbeans and some spices. I made a huge pot of beans and 10 or so of Jason’s friends came over, we had a screening of Jason’s short films from the past 15 years. It was a great evening.

I’d been planning on giving Jason his present on his actual birthday, but it worked out better to give it to him the day before. There was a lot of symbolism in this gift and he loved it just as much as I hoped he would. I don’t want to brag, but he’s told me a few times that it’s the best gift he’s received, and I think it’s the best gift I’ve ever made.

The next day, on his actual birthday, we piled into my Volvo and headed east. It was midnight by the time we pulled off I-40 in northern Arizona. Following the signs for a camping site down a dirt road, we found ourselves in the middle of a state park. It was 17 degrees but there were no artificial lights, and we spent a while looking up at the stars. We made a bed of sleeping bags and blankets in the back of the station wagon and fell asleep.

I was freezing, Jason was wearing shorts!

In the morning we were only 2 hours south of the Grand Canyon. After grabbing some breakfast at a Flintstones themed restaurant we entered the park. Neither of us had ever seen the canyon before, and it was amazing! We spent hours walking along the south rim, peering through binoculars, interacting with park wildlife, and taking Polaroids. We watched the chilly sunset and got back on the road.

We slept in the car again that night. Since there were no pitch-black state parks available, we made do with an abandoned adobe building in New Mexico. As we set up our bed in the back of the car we heard loud, angry barking, that got closer and closer. I shone out a flashlight and the wild dogs were close enough that we could see the reflections of their eyes. I jumped in the car and Jason was right behind me. It was scary, but we felt safe… until around 3AM, when we were awakened by a knocking on the window and a flashlight in our faces. I hid under the covers while Jason explained to the cop that we were just passing through, that we were too tired to drive and that this was the only quiet space we could find. The officer was nice enough about it and we drifted back to sleep. The sun had already risen when the next cop woke us up, so we climbed into the front seat and got back on the road.

Our Thanksgiving plans took us to St. Louis to visit the Blakemores, relatives on Jason’s mom’s side. I’d met Uncle Pat at Burning Man and it was great to see him again. The family had rented a cabin outside of the city and we met them there for a vegan Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat. The next day we stopped at a thrift store and Jason’s cousins picked out some great finds for me.

relaxing with the Blakemores: me, Uncle Pat, Jamie, Uncle Bug, and Jane

Our next stop was Russellville, Arkansas, where we spent the night at my dad’s house. My younger brother Andy was visiting for the holiday, and the four of us made some delicious pizzas and played a great game of Scrabble. I think that will be the only time I’ll beat Jason at that game! The following morning Jason and I dropped Andy off at the Little Rock Airport for his return flight to Cleveland and set our sights on New Orleans. The interstate took us right through Memphis and we decided to visit Graceland. Four hours later we were Elvis-ed out (although I had reached my threshhold after about 1 hour…) and resumed our roadtrip, finally and absolutely New Orleans bound.

 

Back to the city of my birth 17 July 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 4:32 PM
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I totally pulled over on the interstate to take this.

I totally pulled over on the interstate to take this.

Everytime I stepped out of the Volvo I was shocked at the heat, but I still couldn’t wait to get to New Orleans. None of my friends knew that I was arriving; I’d told everyone that I was still in Paris. My first stop was Cafe Rose Nicaud on Frenchman, and when I walked in Lorraine had to do a double take. She closed the coffeeshop soon after that and we saunted down to Flannigan’s to while away the evening, followed by a run to Juan’s Flying Burrito and finally ending up at Lorraine and Brian’s pad in Algiers Point.

Since then I’ve been occupied with reunions. Everyone all had the same look of surprise on their faces. Of course, my first stop on Wilson Drive was 840, and Allia cried when I walked in. All the neighbors were happy to see me, even the ones I’d never really talked to knew I’d left and were happy to see me back on the street. I rounded up a crew of my favorite Wilsonites and whiled away the night at Finn McCool’s, eventually passing out on Boy Robin’s couch.

The next few nights passed in much the same way. I shudder to think just how much whiskey I’ve consumed in the past week. I haven’t had more than 6 hours of sleep any night, but it’s more often around 4 hours. I keep thinking it might be nice to have a relaxing evening, but I have so many awesome friends and there are so many places for us to explore in New Orleans that I just don’t see it happening. I’m out and around, having a great time and always looking out for new opportunities.

Dinner at Boucherie, nee Purple Truck, aka Que Crawl

Dinner at Boucherie, nee Purple Truck, aka Que Crawl

Since I’ll be leaving again in 5 weeks for Burning Man I’m not getting an apartment. So far I’ve been staying different places every night, and my wonderful friends keep offering me beds. I keep my backpack around so that I’m always ready to crash on someone’s couch. My days are spent with Allia at Ant Jooli’s Super Fun Time Summer Camp, which largely consists of running errands together. But hey, we do other stuff, like hang out in the Quarter, go to the aquarium, and explore beautiful Abita Springs on the North Shore. My nights are spents dancing and drinking around the city while my days consist of dressing Barbies and playing Dora the Explorer Go Fish. Oh, what a life!

Allia had never eaten beignets before!

Allia had never eaten beignets before!

 

The American Road Trip, Part 1 15 July 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 2:17 PM
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To pick up where I left off…

In January in Amsterdam I had met a fellow American traveler named Brian. We hadn’t really communicated since then, but one day in May we both happened to be online at the same time. I mentioned that I would be taking a roadtrip south from Cleveland when he was going to be in Chicago, so he decided to tag along.

We decided to go down to Leesville, Ohio, where Betsy, my mother’s step-mom, had a little house on a little lake. It seemed like a great place to stop for a night on the journey south. Betsy was up from her home in Mexico, visiting with her two college roommates Bridget and Sallie. The three of them were having a great time and happily included Brian and me in their fun. It became clear that we had to stay for more than one night, and three days were quickly laughed away. I started calling them “the three aunts.” As we ate blueberry pancakes with rhubarb syrup, we discussed everything from the definition of “creativity” to third wave feminism. Bridget played us a song she had written as we made s’mores around the backyard firepit. I walked out of the local thrift store with a blue Western Flyer bicycle, imagining how good I will look cruising the sweaty streets of New Orleans.

Hanging with the "aunts" in Leesville

Eventually it was time to resume the journey, and so that evening we arrived in Charleston, WV. Betsy had called ahead to a high school friend who welcomed us into her home. At her advice we ate at the Blue Grass Kitchen, which specializes in local organic food. The Empty Glass Bar was just behind the restaurant and was also highly recommended. The patrons there were so friendly to the two wayward travelers and offered us all manner of intoxicants. A couple of the more flamboyant gentlemen were particularly intrigued by Brian, although sadly the attention was not reciprocated. After politely turning down the bag of cocaine we finally made it back to our beds.

The next day had North Carolina on the agenda. Several hours of turning highways and barren interstate got us out of VW, through VA and TN, and finally into the Smokies. Brian decided to stay in Asheville, so after dropping him off downtown I drove west to Annie Langley’s house in Maggie Valley. Annie and I spent the weekend hiking, tasting the French dandelion wine, and of course we checked out the fireworks on the Fourth of July. It was great to see everyone celebrating our own national holiday, and it was so different from the events I’d seen and participated in while in Europe. Distinctively American.

Little SamI Still Love Smokey's After Dark

The road began calling me again, ever and onward deeper into the South, and so I made my way into Georgia. As a child I had loved visiting Helen, “a re-creation of an Alpine village complete with cobblestone alleys and old-world towers.” As I walked through the pseudo-Austrian town among the throngs of tourists and watched the teenagers tubing down the river, I realized that “Alpine” is more than just architecture: the was a spirit that I’d only caught a glimpse of, but I could tell that it was impossible to import. Luckily it was replaced by typical Georgian friendliness. For a few days I visited with my grandparents and other family in Atlanta, and then finally it was time for the last part of the trip: the journey to New Orleans.

 

The western part of eastern Europe… with another German. 16 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 7:59 PM
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After checking out a children’s concert at a Polish cultural festival, I hopped on a bus for Budapest. The road took us through Slovakia and was really a beautiful drive. I got to Budapest around midnight and eventually found a hostel with space.

Budapest was really gorgeous. The Duna River (what the Danube goes by in that neck of the woods) divides the Buda and Pest sections of the city, and there are benches lined up all along both banks. The light was always golden and it was wonderfully warm–perfect conditions for kicking back with an old paperback and some pálinka.

Ah, pálinka… A Hungarian specialty. Most people think this fruit brandy is just too sweet, but boy I couldn’t get enough. My favorite flavor was the apricot, which incidentally is called Barack. I picked up a bottle of this, as well as the plum variety, to share with my dad in Paris in 2 weeks. In my hostel was a 51 year old Iranian woman named Banash. She kept me and the Spanish couple in our room fascinated with her travel adventures from around the world. One night she and I went out for pálinka, beers, and some live local music. And then there were the souvenirs… the only time in Europe I bought that much stuff, but all those handmade crafts! I was like a sitting duck, and I can’t say I’m sorry about it. All in all, it was a very laid back time in Budapest.

I got up one morning and decided to split town, so I took a train south to Pécs. This is going to be the European Cultural Capital of 2010, so I figured I had to check it out before it became jaded from fame. I met a German girl on the bus to the hostel, and there we picked up an English guy, and the three of us headed out for some grub. I finally had some gulas, and the restaurant gave us all free shots of pálinka with our beers. Can you see where this is going? Afterwards Anna, Alan, and I went to a bar recommended by our hostel receptionist. When we walked in he was sitting at the bar, happy that we took his advice. Time for more pálinkas, the bartender’s favorite. Then Anna suggested that Alan and I try Unicom. It’s another Hungarian thing, and I can’t really describe it as anything but horrible. Beers immediately followed to wash out the taste. A few hours later the three of us stumbled back to the hostel while the receptionist stayed behind to hold down the bar.

feast

The next day we did some exploring. Pécs is a small town, so there wasn’t much to do besides relax. After Anna headed off in her own direction, Alan and I grabbed 2 bottles of Hungarian wine and a frozen pizza and camped out on the balcony of our room. There was one other guest in another room, and the receptionist had disappeared again, so we blasted the Hungarian jazz and drank the night away. The resulting hang-over of 2 nights’ drinking was whiled away on an ancient Communist train through Hungary, across Croatia, and finally into Ljubljana around 3 AM.

So after a few hours’ sleep I headed out this morning into the bright Slovenian morning. I wandered around the center of this little city (about 240,000 people) and was about to grab a sandwich when I heard some music coming off the street. A group of 7 Hare Krishnas were strolling down the pedestrian streets, singing, playing an accordian, beating on drums, tinkling tinklers, and handing out literature. Now, there are two lessons I’ve learned well in my life. Number 1 comes from traveling, and that is to never pass up an opportunity, because even if the opportunity is still there tomorrow you may not be. Number 2 comes from growing up in New Orleans: When you see a parade of happy musicians coming your way, you join in. So we all made our way dancing and singing through the streets, drawing stares, smiles, and lots of people looking away embarassed. I was the only one not dressed up as a Hare Krishna, but I enjoyed my special walking tour of the city. Eventually we ended up at the temple, where the music continued and the dancing got good.

You can’t be a good dancer on an empty stomach, so next came my favorite part of the Hare Krishna, that delicious vegetarian meal. Today’s lunch was speghetti made by one of the devotees (and I mean he did more than boil the water) and it was all organic. I whiled away a couple hours at a picnic table with my host Petra and some of the other Kirshna ladies. Tomorrow they’ve asked me to return for another program and meal, and afterwards I will go north to Lake Bled, hopefully getting a ride from one of the devotees. Ooh yeah.

So Ljubljana is a nice little city. It’s very green–the huge park with open fields, the trees everywhere, and even the river is emerald. I had a great afternoon walking around enjoying the weather, passing street musicians and a couple weddings. I bought some new pants since my last pair split a few days ago, completely worn out. There was a plate of crispy calamari in there somewhere. And coming up next is a bar with a rock band. And I guess a drink or two.

Ljubljana

 

Another weekend, another spontaneous festival with Germans 9 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 10:47 AM
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They say that Germans are magnets for other Germans, and damn if it’s not true. And it’s great that I show up on that Ger-dar, not as a full-fledged German, but as I say, I like the Germans and they like me. Not like those Spanish…
Yesterday I had to move to a different room in the hostel, to the last free bed, because of course even when I arrive at the hostel without a reservation I don’t know how many days I’m staying, so I usually only pay one day at a time (which sometimes means I don’t have a bed, but also this confusion sometimes results in the receptionist forgetting to charge me). In my new room was a hung-over German who immediately invited me to party with his friends for the day. My plan was to spend the day reading in the park, but this sounded good too. This was 11h00.

So we tumbled out into the main square where there just happened to be a huge festival celebrating Krakow’s students. We grabbed some beer, a brand called Redd that mixes beer with juice for some delicious mixes, and met up with the other Germans. About this time German-Boy-Robin (Herr Robin to distinguish him from all the other Robins I have) and I thought to introduce ourselves. When the other Germans found out that I had visited their hometown Regensburg (remember the mushroom cafe?) they were delighted, and the day began.

We spend a couple hours at the concert in the main square, where the city’s students had decked themselves out in some silly costumes. It was like Mardi Gras on Frenchman Street, but smaller, daylight, more sober (sorry guys, but I believe NOLA can outdrink every other city in the world) and no drugs. Then we grabbed some spicy kebabs, which Herr Robin complained about for the next 12 hours, met up with a giant brick wall of a Dane, and hopped a bus out to Nova Huta, the communist district of Krakow. There, behind the Real Hypermarche, in an abandoned airfield, was a huge concert. We grabbed some more beers, got some new sunglasses, a 18″ hotdog, and settled down.

My new friends

new shoes!

I saw a band called Lady Pank, which seems to be Poland’s answer to the Rolling Stones complete with a creepy Mick Jagger, and then a German punk band called Die Toten Hosen, or the Dead Pants. Boy, did those Krakow students love those bands. I’d never heard of them before, but apparently they are each countries’ most popular group.

At this point it was about 1 am and I was still wearing the sundress I’d set off in at noon. I was cold and exhausted. We grabbed a taxi back into the city center and then did what all hip European kids do on a Friday night: McDonald’s. And boy, were those nuggets tasty. There were 2 police stationed in the McD’s making sure no one laughed too loud or sat on the counter, and it is my opinion that their power made them crazy. Too much authority. About 2h30 I got into my bed. Herr Robin and I had parted ways; he was heading out to a club. Crazy Germans.

So in a couple hours I take a bus south to Budapest. I’ve got my last 15 PLN (about $5) to spend. I already came across 2 shirts in the perfect shade of yellow, and I’ve been looking for a perfect shade of yellow T shirt in my size for months, so now I have 2. It’s a sunny day, the tourists are clogging the streets, and I’m going to eat a mango gelato and watch it all.

Also, I am so pleased that I got my brother the perfect birthday present from Poland…

Other things that make my life possible: travel spacebags, Diva cup, USAA bank which allows me to make unlimited international transactions, including cash withdrawls, for no fees, lightload towels (although now I want the beach towel!), and Rick Steves.

 

Viva Bavaria! 1 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 11:03 PM
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Well, I was planning on going to Prague today, but an irresistible opportunity came up late last night. After going out to a pub (and blogging) I was sitting in the hostel office with Ian, the friendly British employee, and Jemma, the blonde Australian backpacker. They mentioned this beer festival going on in a town about 1 hour outside of Nuremberg, and it seemed like a quintessential Bavarian experience.

So after changing my plans with dear Izzy, the three of us set out today. On the train we rendez-vous-ed with Ian´s giant German friend Chris (the third Chris I´ve met during my 4 days in Germany). We made a pit stop for some ice cream sundaes, and then continued on to our stop. From the train we could see the festivites under way–on top of a very big hill. A burg even. It was an agonizing 45 minutes up that damn hill, with not nearly enough shade or water, but finally we made it. Hundreds of Bavarians had congregated on top of this hill in the middle of nowhere, and there were tents everywhere selling beer, bratwurst and nearly every other meat product you could want, pretzels, and candy–including one man selling 4 different flavors of cotton candy. I have to say, the erderbeer cotton candy was delicious.

I do love cotton candy

So the four of us laid out on the grassy hill, enjoying the sunshine and cold beers while we watched the frolicking Germans and had no end of fun ridiculing the teenagers. There were giant pretzels, 18″ sausages, steak sandwiches, and any number of things to make you sick. Eventually it was time to go, to catch the last train back to Nuremberg, and we decided to walk to the town next to the one we started from. We happily set off down the hill, further down, further down… Still no train station… Just a few minutes left till the last train left… We started running… Faster… Still no station! I was out of breath and my knee, which had been hurting all day from walking, was really throbbing at this point. But we kept running, although I was in dead last. Eventually, around a corner, we saw the train passing, and then eventually stop, but I was still a ways off. I made the train with about 4 seconds to spare and just about collapsed into a seat. But we made it back to Nuremberg and cooked a yummy pasta dinner all together.

This hostel is actually booked full for tonight, with no space for me or Jemma, but Ian´s taken care of us. He set up 2 cots in a spare basement room, so we actually have complete privacy, and since these aren´t official beds we are both staying tonight for free! We´re using the office bathroom, which has the only shower where the water runs continuously without automatically shutting off after 9 seconds. And the bathroom is stocked with toiletries left behind by other travelers, so I finally got to wash my hair. In a bit we are going to fill up some buckets with warm water and rosewood oil and give ourselves pedicures while drinking some vodka&cokes.

It´s really great to meet someone so generous, and this has really been a perfect experience. Ian has traveled extensively himself, and he is happy to help me and Jemma without expecting anything in return. I liked Nuremberg yesterday, but after today it will always be a very special memory for me.